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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16399

Mr TOLLNER (3:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister inform the House what the federal government is doing to maximise opportunities for seven out of 10 young people who do not go directly to university from school? What is the government doing to ensure these opportunities continue?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Solomon for his question. I had the privilege of being in Solomon last week, and in the suburb of Winnellie in Darwin we saw an outstanding program run jointly by the Territory Construction Association and the Northern Land Council in relation to the Alice Springs-Darwin railway line. Under this program, 1,200 Territorians have received formal training, 350 of whom were Aboriginal Territorians receiving training specifically in construction and civil engineering from certificate 1 through to certificate 4. Further to that, not only was that program supported by significant Commonwealth funding this year of $684 million in total to support new apprenticeships and training, but also the industry services training organisation has taken two lots of 15 Aboriginal Territorians recommended to it by the Northern Land Council and is putting them into a pre-employment training program for five to six weeks. This will enable those Indigenous Australians to go from having no skills at all to having formally recognised training that they can take to any part of Australia, having done their pre-employment program up to and including certificate level 3 in engineering and construction.

It is interesting that, when I visited the men who were working on the Alice Springs-Darwin railway, a couple of hours drive south of Darwin, I did not get many questions, as they toiled away, about their concern for vets, dentists and lawyers and the kinds of HECS debts they might face. I can tell you that their concerns were far more fundamental than that.

On Friday, the National Council for Vocational Education Research released the latest data on this government's initiatives in relation to apprentices and training. We have now got 391,000 Australians—54 per cent of them under the age of 25—in apprenticeships and training. That is 15 per cent growth in the last year. Commencements were up 264,000, which is a 14 per cent increase.

Ms Gillard —How many completions?

Dr NELSON —I am coming to that. Most importantly, there were 118,500 completions—that is, a 19 per cent increase. Four per cent of the commencements are now school based, and 37 per cent of all those in training are women—and it is increasing. Behind all of that data are the lives of everyday Australians, young people in particular.

This government has also just announced and offered to the states $3.6 billion to support training over the next three years. On Friday in Darwin, the states and territories agreed to discuss in detail the proposition that we will be further expanding training over the next three years. If the Labor Party wants to reflect on the problems it has, it should reflect on this: in 18 months I have had 17 questions without notice on universities and one on apprenticeships and training. Reflect on it!